'Hey, where are you going?' Rahul asked his alter ego Shanu as he found him packing bags.

'I am going out in search of Soul of India.'

'Soul of India!! Why?'

'Well!! I have always wanted to meet her. Have only heard about her, felt her presence but never actually met her so…'

'Dude, even I would want to meet her.'

'Join me then.'

Rahul was elated. 'Give me some time to pack my things.'

'Of course.'

'So, where shall we go to look for her?' asked Rahul.

'That's the problem. I do not have any idea. Have you noticed that of late there has been no reference of her in the media? I was uncomfortable with this absence – precisely the reason why I thought of undertaking this journey.'

'Well!! Had never thought about it but now that you say I realize she is actually absent from public sphere for quite some time. But there needs to be a logical starting point – we cannot just go on looking arbitrarily for her in this vast nation.'

'Right'

'Shall we start from 'Villages'? It is said that India lives in 'Villages' – probably we would find her there.'

'Not a bad option. Let's go.'

And they set out for 'Villages'. The journey was not easy – the roads were in deplorable conditions; there was no connectivity for miles; the public transport or whatever was available of it was in shambles; they had to cross two major water bodies on overloaded boats which had thrown open invitation for capsizing to the flowing water mass. Concerned people / fellow passengers guided them to avoid certain routes so that they do not come face to face with the dreaded duo of 'Criminal Intervention' and 'Lawlessness'. They followed the instruction to the hilt. Finally when they reached 'Villages' they were exhausted. The dusk had settled in and the darkness was waiting to take over his turn.

'Still no electricity!! When will the leaders of this nation start keeping their promises?' commented Rahul.

'She was here.' said Shanu.

'Even I have this feeling. What is the probability that she is still here?'

'Not very bright I think. Let us find it out.'

They started asking for her from the first group they met sitting at the Chaupal. The younger lot could not recall anyone by that name but some of the elderly did remember her with fondness. 'She used to live here. Very charming and knowledgeable lady – always eager to help others. Those were the good old days – despite all hardships we tried to live as a single unit.'

'Where did she go?' asked Shanu.

'No Idea. One day she simply vanished. Initially we thought that she is on her usual annual trip – she used to go on excursion a lot. But she didn't return…'

They accepted the hospitality of the elders at the 'Villages' and stayed for the night. The sarpanch called for a gathering in the night where the duo got to know about the 'lives' of villagers in greater detail. They were living without access to proper and efficient medical facilities & educational system; they did not have access to proper market or the support of a well laid distribution to sell their produce; the financial condition was not very great for the majority – some even had committed suicide not being able to cope this hardship. But they were still hopeful – 'One day, we would come out of this mess. You would see that' said an elderly at the end of the session. They only smiled.

While at bed they discussed on their next destination.

'So, she is not here. Where shall we go next?' asked Rahul.

'Let us try out the 'Cities' – it represents India's growth story. The burgeoning and powerful middle class, the IT/ITes companies, the malls and multiplexes, the high-rises and what not. What do you think?'

'Fair assumptions – she could be there. After all India's progress is mostly visible in 'Cities'.'

The next day they left for 'Cities'. Once they reached a certain point the ride was smooth. They travelled through wide highways to reach 'Cities'. High rises and fancy buildings welcomed them to the 'Next Destination of the World'. They were impressed. However, as they moved through the alleys in search of the 'Soul of India', a different reality struck them. 'Cities' had grown in most haphazard manner as a concrete jungle with very few breathing place. Despite being the 'toast' of the nation, it lacked even the basic amenities and infrastructure – most of the roads were narrow, sewerage system was in shambles, most of the areas with the exception of VVIP areas were garbage strewn, people lived in densely populated agglomeration designed mostly like a ghetto than a well planned residential space.

'I do not think we would find her here - At least not in this pocket. Let us move to a mall or any well designed public outing space.' Rahul said.

'Let us try that out.'

They reached the biggest mall of the 'Cities'. It was a different world altogether. It was crowded – people of various regions were thronging the outlets of the best known brands in the world. Some of them were shopping while most were 'Window Shopping'. The duo tried to enquire about 'Soul of India' but few seemed interested. Even those who cared didn't know about her whereabouts. Disappointed they were moving out when these words fell into 'Earlier I could not afford to pay Rs. 4000. Now that I am capable to pay such an amount, these brands have moved to the range of Rs. 10000. It seems I would not be able to buy these anytime soon.' The partial and slightly ironical truth of the growth story of Great Middle Class was laid bare in front of them.

'The only place I could now think of finding her is in the corridors of power. Shouldn't a country be identified with the governance it is being offered?' Rahul said.

'Considering the present situation I doubt that we would find her there. But there is no harm in trying this option.'

They tried to access the corridors of power but failed as all their efforts were foiled by the formidable combination of red-tape, bureaucracy and corruption. Undeterred, they filed a RTI application to know the whereabouts of the 'Soul of India'. The reply to the RTI was as follows:

Name: Soul of India
Location: Unknown
Status: A few sightings have been recorded in the last few years but none could be verified. A committee has been formed to look into the matter. The report is expected in 12 months.

Even the administration was clueless on her. They have reached a dead end. Both were sitting on a bench in a park discussing the possible course of action when they noticed a 'Sanyasi' coming in their direction.

'Another one of those cunning thugs' Rahul said under his breath.

As the Sanyasi approached them Rahul said 'Baba, we do not have anything to offer you.'

The Sanyasi laughed his heart out at the statement. 'No, no. I have not come here to ask for something. I just thought I should share what I know. If you take a take a journey to the mighty Himalayas then probably you would find what you are looking for.' Saying this he turned away and went on his way.

The journey to the Himalayas was soothing – it was as if Mother Nature had opened her arms to welcome them. They could not find her at the foothills and hence decided to move upwards. The inhabitants gave them a vague idea of the spot where they could find someone who could be 'Soul of India'. After a trek of 5 days, far away from the last human settlement, they found a small but beautiful hut. As they were going to knock on the door it was opened by a beautiful young lady – 'Come in', she said.

They had not seen anyone more beautiful in their life. She had a hallowed persona – almost godlike. They did not know how to react and were stationed in their place as if immobilized.

'Aren't you guys going to step in?'

They fumbled for words as they stepped inside – 'We thought… umm…'

'What? That you would find someone old? Do I look too young for someone more than 5000 years old?' there was a teasing smile on her face.

They nodded.

'Well!! I age differently than you people.'

'We understand.'

'Good!!' saying this she went at the back of the hut and brought them some fruits. 'Eat. These are some of the rarest and most delicious fruits available on earth. I was expecting you and hence brought it when I went out.'

'You knew that we were coming.'

She smiled and replied 'Yes. Actually I sent that Sanyasi to guide you. So what brings you here?'

'Actually we wanted to see you in person' said Shanu 'and probably ask why you have withdrawn from the Public space off late. But now I think we know…'

'You think you know what?'

'We think that we know why you have left the 'Villages' and 'Cities' of India and formed abode in the upper Himalayas.' Rahul replied.

'And what would be that reason?'

'The 'Villages' and 'Cities' are plagued by so many infrastructural and governance challenges. You must have felt frustrated and disappointed over the years. Anyone would.'

She smiled – 'Well!! I must give you credit. I do sometimes feel disappointed but I have seen both worse and better days of India. The situation is not bad as 'Hope' still is working round the clock to improve the situation. This is a transition phase – what we generally call the 'trigger' point.'

'Trigger point?'

'Yeah, trigger point. Things can actually go both ways from here – An upward surge or a downslide.' She explained. 'This is precisely the reason I am here.'

The duo passed a questioning look at her.

She maintained her charismatic smile as she went on with her explanation 'Well this place is my laboratory – my mind palace. I come here whenever I face challenges or dilemma. The tranquility helps me sort out things.'

'So, you have come here to solve the problems plaguing India so it can take that upward path.'

'Well - Both correct and incorrect. I do not solve problems. I only try to change the variables affecting the outcome. The problems would have to be solved by people themselves.'

'What variables?' asked Shanu.

'There are many – but at the moment I am concerned with only two. These are the biggest influencers for the route India would take in coming days.'

'Governance and Infrastructure?' asked Rahul.

'Ha ha!! No. They are just the outcomes. Right now I am facing two of the toughest challengers of my lifetime – Indifference and Intolerance. In the past I have driven off them but then the battle was fought individually. This is the first time they have joined forces to attack the fabric of India. Till now they have been able to make little dent but they are stronger than before. I needed to draw strategies and that is why I am here.'

'But hasn't your absence from public space made India more vulnerable from them?' asked both.

'Slightly yes – but this also needs to be done in order to win this 'War'. Further my lieutenants 'Hope', 'Compassion', 'Liberty', 'Integrity' & 'Tolerance' are still there on ground fighting this battle every minute as we speak.'

'What can we do to help?'

'Just spread the word. And strengthen the efforts of my lieutenants. That is what I expect from all the Indians. Now go.' She caressed their hairs like a mother as she spoke this.

As they moved back there was a determination in them to fight off the evils of Indifference and Intolerance and win this 'War' for India.


Rahul Shanu, Guest Contributor, PatnaDaily.Com

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